Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a veteran foreign policy analyst (with a human rights specialization); she is now Pres. Obama’s nominee to succeed Susan Rice as US ambassador to the United Nations. This nomination will draw right-wing fire for her allegedly anti-Israel views, but she also has backing over the years, and now, from such stalwart Israel defenders as Alan Dershowitz (a professor of hers at Harvard Law School) and Martin Peretz.
An Open Zion article by Ali Gharib handily summarizes the controversy, with some helpful links.
And the following is from an energetic defense of her record by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a recent Republican candidate for Congress):
… The principal comments attributed to her come from an interview she granted in 2002 in Berkeley, California while she was on her book tour. She was asked by an interviewer to respond to a “thought experiment” as to what she would advise an American president if it seemed that either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were moving toward genocide. Any seasoned media professional would have known that rule number one – as Michael Dukakis famously discovered in 1988 after being asked by Bernard Shaw of CNN how he would respond if his wife Kitty were raped – is never to respond to a hypothetical. But Power, fresh on the national media scene, was baited by the question and answered that preventing such a genocide would entail America being prepared to alienate a powerful constituency – by which she meant the American-Jewish community – and sending in a protective force to prevent another situation like Rwanda. From these comments – putting Israel and the possibility of genocide against the Palestinians in a single sentence – Power has been lobbed together with other enemies of Israel.
In our conversation she rejected utterly the notion she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as ‘invade Israel’ talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints at Israel being guilty of any such atrocity. …
Hat tip to our colleague, Arieh Lebowitz, for indicating that Martin Kramer (a neocon intellectual who is currently associated with the conservative Shalem Center in Jerusalem) is one of those pushing back against Power, with a post that reminds his readers of Power’s same offhand suggestion in 2002 of introducing an international force in the West Bank. (Still, there’s this counterpoint in ForeignPolicy.com, an article recounting support for Power’s appointment among some neocons and other advocates of humanitarian interventionism — such as Max Boot, John McCain and Joe Lieberman.)
I actually would sympathize with a move to place at least part of the West Bank (and possibly the Gaza Strip as well) under a UN or NATO trusteeship so that Palestinians (and Israelis) are protected from attacks and abuses. This was an idea floated rather desperately by Yossi Sarid during his leadership of Meretz in the darkest days of the Second Intifada. But this would have to be with the agreement of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (and possibly Hamas as well), and understood as an interim step toward Palestinian independence, using the precedents of East Timor and Kosovo. Easier said than done, of course.